Bags will be packed. Planes will be boarded. Reunions will be had. For one of the first times since coming to Kenyon, many first years will meet with friends they haven’t seen for months. Only through the carefully tinted window of social media have many first years seen their former high school peers. While their Instagrams show lives filled with parties and an abundance of friends, is this the true representation of their first semester at college? Or does social media allow us to cultivate a false reality and fool others — or worse, ourselves?
One particular meme summarizes the relationship many college students have toward social media: “Sure looks like you’re having a lot of fun in college,” says a relative. The student retorts, “Yeah, Karen, that’s because I don’t post pictures of me crying in the library on Facebook.” For better or for worse, we all cultivate a particular image on social media — acceptable to relatives, future employers and friends back home.
Instagram and Snapchat have always had an innate sense of competition. We all strive to make it seem like our lives are always together and our outfits always on-point. However, when starting our first year of college, it feels even more critical to feed into this competition. There is a sense of urgency to get photographic evidence of nights out, or to make the trek to the Kokosing River Trail solely “for the ’gram.” Our activities become less for our own happiness, and more for the artificial happiness that comes from winning the made-up game that everyone is playing titled, “Who Can Make It Seem Like They Are Having The Most Fun?”
For many of us, college does not wholly match up with our expectations: It’s either too difficult or too easy, too loud or too quiet, too far away or too close to home. We want to convince our followers and friends that we made the right choice, that we are making the right choice. It could also be more subtle than that: Maybe we’re simply trying to convince ourselves.
Admitting that we play this game of self-deception does not amount to turning our backs altogether on college. But we should be able to have hard conversations about the messier, less publicized bits of the transition. Once we accept that adjusting to college is an imperfect process, we can be honest with our peers and find solace in the fact that they are probably feeling the same way. While some people may love everything about college, these people are few and far between.
Does this winter break bring excitement or anxiety? Whether you are thrilled to tell your friends from home about your new experiences or worried about comparing your new life to theirs, both feelings may ring true. When packing your bags, remember that you are not your curated social media profile. When boarding your plane, unplug from your accounts. And when reuniting with friends, have the courage to be the real you.
Mia Sherin ’22 is an undeclared major from Wilmette, Ill. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cameron Austin ’20 is a mathematics and philosophy major from Chattanooga, Tenn. You can contact him at email@example.com.